People with communication problems face a crisis in equipment provision due to government cuts and inadequate information on the number in need, Scope said today.
Launching a campaign to improve provision, the disability charity said specialist organisations that provided communication aids were under threat of closure after the government ended its Communication Aids Project (CAP) in March 2006.
The CAP provided more than £20m from 2002-6 to boost local funding for equipment for school-aged children with severe communication difficulties, to help them learn, interact with others and support their transition to adult services. Scope said it reached more than 4,100 children.
The charity called on the government to reintroduce ring-fenced funding for these organisations, and also urged health, social care and education services to pool budgets for aids. It said funding for current equipment was often tied to particular services or paid for by users and their families.
It said the government failed to record the number of people in the UK with communication impairments. It estimated that 1.5 million might be affected, with 600,000 needing equipment.
The charity wants the government to research the scale of the problem in the UK and is campaigning for all people with communication impairments to have the legal right to equipment.
Executive director Andy Rickell said: “People are being denied their right to communicate. The government must recognise the scale of the problem and act on this knowledge.”
Why Natalie must pay up for a basic human right
Natalie Sides, 21, a communication aid user with profound physical impairments, has had to pay for equipment since the age of four.
Her father, Joe, found it difficult and frustrating to get an aid through the local authority as it did not fit within her statement of special needs. “It may fit the budget, but it’s not meeting the needs of the individual,” he said.
Natalie urged the government to provide funding for people with impairments because being able to communicate is a basic human right.
Contact the author